From March 26-29, UNCG held a clothing drive for at-risk LGBT+ youth. During its running the clothing drive collected a significant amount of clothes for shelters for at-risk LGBT youth, as well as UNCG students in need.
In America, according to The U.S. Government’s Supplemental Document to the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, approximately 1 to 1.6 million young people experience homelessness each year. While this is shocking, The Williams Institute UCLA School of Law details that a staggering 40 percent of these homeless young Americans are LGBTQ+.
To further contextualize the significance of this number, truecolorsfund.org reports that young people that identify as LGBTQ+ constitute up to 7 percent of the youth population in the United States. These numbers are incredibly high for this group.
It is also significant to highlight that when many of these young people are kicked out of their homes, they become more vulnerable to issues that may not affect non-LGBTQ+ homeless youth in the same way, such as potential homophobic and transphobic hate crimes and assault. With regard to why it seems such a significant issue is not discussed more, UNCG junior, Mayia Lewis, said, “It’s like any other issue that goes on, if it doesn’t impact specific people who have the ability to help, nothing will happen.”
A lack of concern for LGBTQ+ homelessness can be tied to the negative stigma associated with existing as an LGBTQ+ youth.
In the United States, according to truecolorsfund.org, half of the teens that identify as LGBTQ+ that come out to their parents are met with a negative reaction, and 1 in 4 are thrown out of their homes.
While this family conflict may be individually specific, general factors among LGBTQ+ youth that can contribute to homelessness are homophobia, transphobia, poverty, foster care and abuse in the home. There are, however, services and organizations that are trying to curb these issues, such as LGBTQ+ homeless shelters and LGBTQ+ inclusive youth homeless shelters. Locally, in honor of UNCG’s annual Pride Month, the Queer Clothing Drive was held this week in the Office of Intercultural Engagement, with the intention of addressing this issue.
The Queer Clothing Drive, organized by UNCG student, Sam Milbourn, was created to help LGBTQ+ students, particularly transgender and gender non-conforming students, find clothing to make them more feel comfortable in their outer appearance.
“I first had the idea of this clothing exchange as a result of my own experiences,” said Milbourn. This experience, he described, was related to having a ton of clothes and not knowing how to get rid of them.
Milbourn went on to talk about the long process that it takes to get a new wardrobe and how it was also an expensive endeavor to find new clothes to feel comfortable in. Milbourn brought the idea of the Queer Clothing Drive to Elliot Kimball, the President of the Office of Intercultural Engagement, and graduate assistant for LGBTQ+ Advocacy and Outreach for the OIE, Kate Rawson, who were the driving forces to get the project rolling.
Of the Queer Clothing Drive, Neil Jacobs said, “This is a beautiful idea that will impact someone’s life for the better.” Jacobs was excited about Milbourn and the OIE’s efforts and hopes this will be an annual event that UNCG will continue to hold in the future.